Sunday, July 21, 2013

What I Wore Sunday and My Mixed Feelings on "Cry Rooms"

This morning while I was at Mass, Kendra's post yesterday at Catholic All Year was on my mind.  It was the sort of post that I read and then ran into the other room to tell Paul about how I would pretty much be in tears if I'd been in her shoes.  As I jiggled Patrick and slipped out the back it came back to me a few times and as I headed back into Mass after the homily, when I felt like I was going to be run over by the stampede of people flowing out Mass, I thought of her words on cry rooms and how she said she'd like to fill them with cement.  

I tend to agree (bear with me here).

I have been in a cry room that was exactly what cry rooms everywhere should be... where the focus was still on the Mass and people followed along and participated and the expectation was that the children would be corrected when they were running amok, but in an area where the correction wouldn't disturb others.

But let's face it, that's not usually the norm.

Our current parish doesn't have a cry room.  It does have a narthex behind three sets of heavy glass doors which doubles as a sort of cry room for half of Mass... and I've begun to think of it as a cry room because it's treated as one.

These past few weeks I've gotten an up close and personal look at the narthex/cry room... and I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about it, so Kendra's post today (with a link up) about cry rooms was timely.  

Here's how the narthex/cry room works at our parish from what I've seen this past month (and of course, it's in story form, because let's face it, pretty much everything I write is in story form):

Patrick has decided that he is no longer content to cuddle with Mommy during Mass and doze sweetly on my chest.  He's eight months old and he has plans that don't include sleeping from 9 to 10:30 on Sunday mornings any longer.  It also seems that he's decided that walking through the doors of the Church makes him hungry.  Ravenous in fact.  With his new interest in pinching me and yanking on my scapular while screaming to let me know that he's starving (even if he has eaten right before we left the house), I've found myself retreating out into the narthex a few minutes into Mass to sit on a staircase that's tucked back out of the way.

From my staircase I can still see and hear everything.  I'll sit, and grab my nursing cover and get him set up to nurse in the carrier and I'll sway back and forth and hope with all my might that he falls asleep quickly.  And by quickly I mean before the homily.

Before the homily things are peaceful in the narthex.  Patrick and Sadie and I are all alone back there (Paul's on his own wrangling Mae Bae these days).  We can hear the priest and I've actually heard more of the homilies than I'd heard in years.  Then the homily ends.  And the doors swing open.  And social hour starts.  A screaming toddler races past me.  Another follows behind.  Loud voices start talking about toddler development.  People are comparing milestones.  Kids scream, adults laugh, one man sat loudly humming Ave Maria last week and then broke out into song.

All the while I have my eyes focused on the altar.  I'm trying... so hard... not to be annoyed.  I'm failing.  I'm trying to offer it up... trying to focus... trying to pray... but I still find it's taking everything not to shake my head.  And I don't want to be that person.  Not at all.

Patrick is still nursing.  He hasn't fallen asleep in time to slip back into Mass before the hoards come rushing out.  Every time a child screams with laughter (which is like every 10 seconds because these children, who were sitting pretty well in Mass ten seconds earlier know that play time has arrived) he clamps down with his new top teeth... not quite biting... just squeezing in alarm at the very loud sound... and I wince.... but he's practically asleep and I really don't want to wake him up when he wasn't biting on purpose and unlatching him would definitely wake him up and put us back at Go.

You see I love seeing kids at Mass.  There's only one time when I really find myself getting annoyed... And that's when Mom and/or Dad check out and let junior have free rein.  Kid yelling while a harried parent tries to stop it?  I can relate.  Mom turning around to talk to someone else while little Sally lays on the floor and kicks the wall as hard as she can?  I find myself taking deep breaths and trying not to get angry.

We are still at Mass, right?  And why the exodus when the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins, when the kids aren't even misbehaving?  Is it in anticipation of possible misbehaving?  Or is it because it's cocktail hour on the Lido Deck?

Today I took Patrick and Sadie and we slipped back inside, the bulky cover still over us.  He wasn't going to fall asleep out there.  Finally, in the moderately quiet church, Patrick drifted off (I say moderately because shortly after he fell asleep a toddler crawled under the pew over to us and started beating her hands on the seat next to Sadie... but hey, I can understand not wanting to take her out into the chaos outside those glass doors either, because I didn't want to be out there and was silently praying that Patrick just stay asleep...  In case you're wondering... he didn't).

So I guess you could say that my feelings on cry rooms are kind of mixed.  I can see the point.  I'm happy to have a place to escape when Patrick's fussing (like the narthex).  I'm sure others feel the same.  On the other hand, I dream of a world in which cry rooms aren't a place of exiled craziness, where people think that they aren't at Mass any longer... because you are... and while everyone understands that it will be loud, I think that there should be an expectation that you're at least trying your level best to participate in the Mass, rather than turning to your neighbor and saying "how 'bout those Tigers?"

What do you think?  As you can tell, my thoughts on cry rooms aren't totally clear (and perhaps they're a bit jaded)...  And I pretty much have an internal battle with myself at each Mass, as I berate myself for getting annoyed because I know how hard it can be... I'm right in the thick of it... I understand... or at least I do at times and I try to the rest of the time... but I think that there should be at least some effort on the parents' part beyond simply standing there and talking while the kid runs wild.).

I apologize for my overuse of ellipsis... Oh no!  There I go again!  It's like a punctuation addiction.  At least I know I have a problem...

After all that rambling about Mass are you ready for what we actually wore today?  

One of the first dresses that I made when I learned to sew...

Maggie and Sadie in their dresses at the zoo after a post Mass picnic.

He cries hysterically every time I put him in a button up shirt.
That makes getting dressed on Sunday's fun... but now he's happy because he has a spoon.

I said:  "Stand right there.  Now quick. Look that way!"
He humored me by following my instructions.
And then it took my camera roughly 60 seconds to snap a picture.
This was the result.


  1. Cam! I have to admit, I was a little worried that I would throw a link-up and no one would come, so thanks. I'm thinking the solution here is to have two cry rooms: the "In it to win it" cry room and the "Let's face it, we've given up" cry room. But there should also be a big sign over them that says "Please do not tell parents that this cry room exists. They know. They just don't want to be in here. Hey, is that something in your eye?"

  2. Definitely with a sign! I know that's why I dislike going to the "children's Mass" as it is because I feel like there's an expectation that I need to send Sadie away for Mass with the kids and I don't because I think she should be there at Mass during Mass... but that's likely it's own post!

  3. I despise cry rooms. Seriously...they give me hives. :-P

    The old parish we went to had one at the back of the church. One morning, my middle child (who was not even one at the time), was having a tough time, so I took him to the cry room. There were a handful of kids, all playing loudly, and the adults were ignoring their behavior (and the mass, while they checked out their phone.) When the priest began the Eucharistic prayer, the kids started running circles around the two rows of chairs. Rather than chastise them, the adults moved the chairs apart so the kids would have more room, and started to chat with one another. DURING COMMUNION!!! Just thinking about this memory makes my blood boil!

    On a side note- why not just nurse in the pew? I've actually spoken with a few priests about it, and all have encouraged me to do so if needed. It might make things easier for you. :)

  4. The main reason I haven't been nursing in the pew is because he's sooooo distractible when he first starts nursing and keeps unlatching and looking around and then screaming because he's not nursing... so I take him out until he gets so sleepy that he's not super distracted.

    That cry room does sound horrible! Phones during Mass are just bad...

  5. We don't have a cry room. My daughter is 3 months old and absolutely flips out if I dare to sit down in a pew while holding her, so for the majority of the Mass I'm in the narthex trying to rock her to sleep in the Ergo, and keep her from throwing a fit. I see a few other parents with fussy babies as well, and we all exchange the sympathetic glances and smiles. No worries.

    Unfortunately, there are three families who also have given up any hopes of sitting in the pews, but they don't have babies. They have children who are-roughly-preschool age, and they let those kids run wild. Shrieking, throwing things, hitting one another, all while the parents (who are apparently deaf) ignore them and carry on conversations with one another. I've found myself in almost the exact same situation as you; trying to stay focused on the Mass, trying veryveryvery hard not to get angry, and keeping myself from blowing up because one of the children, who was racing around, bumped into me and woke up Alessandra, who had finally drifted off to sleep. It's unpleasant, and I resent these parents who have zero interest in at least ATTEMPTING to make their children behave. They just hang out in the narthex and let them run wild.

    Anyway! Rant over. :) Side note, I really love your outfit! Those colors are beautiful.

  6. I haven't been at a parish that has a cry room. Or been in one besides one parish where we were attending a baptism. No one was paying attention. Some parents brought loud toys and blankets for their kids to park themselves on. It was horrible.

    I have been greatly blessed that my daughter is relatively calm. This is just the way she was born. And we only have one child (sadly due to infertility). But, with that all said, I have taken her out into the narthex and even outside if her screaming had reached a decibel level. But our intention was to get back into the church and listen. We attend the TLM with Exposition on the first Sunday of every month. She makes it through and has mostly since she turned two. I do allow a non-dripy cup of milk at mass on those long Sundays and some quiet books and her lovey. But she has learned not to disturb anyone, mostly. But like I said, it is due to her temprament.

    And for the record, I don't find crying babies/toddlers distracting at mass. Just horrible liturgy and priests that use real sign language (like today, it was awful.).

  7. Time for a homily on children's behavior at Mass. On parish I was at; the pastor was in process of removing the cry room as he wanted children to be welcome at Mass (and probably felt that if they were all in the pews; there might not be as much socializing?
    Another disruption at some churches is at a 'children's" Mass where they leave to get "liturgy of the word" given in child format. The parents often take the kids and then when they come back may find their seats taken by latecomers. Nice. But it is disruptive and plus it's kind of a Protestant Sunday school deal. At my current parish; this doesn't happen but it does have awesome sacramental prep classes after Mass and on Saturdays!

  8. I found this post interesting because I recognize your church from the pictures and I know that there are lots of people who have started to go there primarily because both priests are such excellent homilists. I don't blame these people; I go there from time to time myself and it's always very encouraging to hear solid teaching delivered in such a beautifully tangible way. But ultimately, no matter how well or awkwardly the homily is delivered, the Eucharist should be the primary focus of the Mass. And I guess it's a wonder to me that people don't know that; that they can recognize the importance of orthodox teaching, even to the point of possibly switching parishes to hear it, be intent to listen to every word of it, but then migrate to the back for the Eucharist?

    Honestly for us it's the other way around. Our kids know that they can't leave during the consecration, or the Gospel and if they need to use the bathroom (and they always do amazingly) they need to either wait for the homily or, if the homily is ended, for the end of Mass. (exceptions made for emergencies, we learned the hard way that you can't be hard nosed about the bathroom).

  9. I can deal with crying babies. The only thing that really bothered me was when a kid behind me was chomping on a can of Pringles potato chips during Mass. Because he was leaning forward, the crunching was right in my ear. Plus, the smell of Pringles first thing in the morning made me feel a little queasy. So my husband and I moved down a few pews.

    Crying I can handle, but food crunching and strong food chomping is a bit much.

    Then there was a time an adult woman took her shoes off and scratched her feet for about fifteen minutes. All I heard was scritch scritch scritch, scritch scritch scritch. And this was at a Latin High Mass!

    Anyway, after the Pringles chomping and the foot scratching incidents, a crying baby or babbling toddler doesn't phase me at all!

  10. I agree with you 100%!! We have a weird situation at our church. We have mostly older parishioners, and the young families that do come are very the cry room is used as intended when the young families are in there. BUT a lot of the older people sit back in the cry room and sometimes talk or whatnot and that makes it hard to use the way it's intended. I've also been to parishes like you describe - where cry rooms are free-for-alls, and I totally agree that those need to be done away with!


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